Hartford head coach resigns day before season, school disputes player endangerment claims in resignation letter

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 19: Head coach John Gallagher of the Hartford Hawks reacts during their game against the Baylor Bears in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Hartford head coach John Gallagher sued a regent last year and is now heading out the door the day before the season begins. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) (Tim Nwachukwu via Getty Images)

There are messy ways for a coach to exit a college basketball program, and then there's what is currently happening with the Hartford men's basketball team.

Hartford head coach John Gallagher resigned from his post on Monday, one day before the Hawks are scheduled to begin their final season as Division I program, according to ESPN's Jeff Borzello. Hartford tips off in a home game against Sacred Heart 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

In a resignation letter addressed to Hartford president Greg Woodward, Gallagher reportedly accused the school of breaching his contract and jeopardizing player safety. Among his claims were that Hartford did not foot the bill for student-athlete meals nor send a trainer to its preseason scrimmage against Dartmouth.

A player was reportedly injured during the scrimmage and did not receive timely treatment.

From ESPN:

"At least one parent has expressed outrage at this situation," Gallagher wrote. "This is something that I, as a coach, cannot tolerate."

Gallagher has held the Hartford job since 2010, holding a career record of 169-207 with one America East tournament title.

Hartford responded with a statement saying Gallagher's resignation letter is "full of inaccuracies" and alluded to an oncoming legal process:

"First and foremost, the safety of our students is our top priority. The University confirmed Dartmouth College would have an athletic trainer on site for our recent scrimmage, who could assist both UHart and Dartmouth student-athletes. This is an institution with highly qualified medical staff and facilities. Additionally, other members of our staff have always had a University-sponsored credit card for planned meals and expenses," the statement read.

"Mr. Gallagher's resignation letter is full of inaccuracies. We are confident that these baseless claims and attacks will be disproved through the legal process. We wish Mr. Gallagher well and look forward to announcing interim leadership for our men's basketball program."

The backstory here is Hartford's board of regents voted in May 2021 for the school to drop down from Division I to Division III in all sports, a move that a consultants report claimed would save them $9 million per year.

Gallagher, understandably, was not happy. That vote came right after the best season Hartford men's basketball season, a 15-9 campaign that saw the Hawks win the America East tournament and make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 2021. They were eliminated by eventual national champion Baylor in the first round.

According to the Hartford Courant, Gallagher sued board of regents vice chair David Thompson, whom he claims misled him in a series of conversation in spring of 2021 about the probability of Hartford going D3. Gallagher claimed he received an offer for an assistant coaching job from Oklahoma head coach Porter Moser in April 2021 with a $600,000 annual salary, but Gallagher turned it down with the belief he was already coaching a team on the rise.

Hartford followed that season up by going 12-20, and now Gallagher won't be sticking around to see how it finishes out its Division I tenure.